Head of Timeform Australia Gary Crispe looks ahead to the first big trial for the Melbourne Cup.
"After doing her earlier racing in New Zealand, Lucia Valentina was transferred to up-and-coming trainer Kris Lees at the start of her 2014 Sydney Autumn campaign where she enjoyed considerable success from a handful of starts..."
Classy Newcastle-trained mare Lucia Valentina will be popular with punters as she lines up in the 2014 Group 1 Caulfield Cup at 17:45. Although the overall quality of this year's renewal appears down by a few pounds on past averages, it does not make the task of finding the winner any easier: with the 18 runners coming from six individual lead up races and four overseas-trained contenders making up the field.
After doing her earlier racing in New Zealand, Lucia Valentina was transferred to up-and-coming trainer Kris Lees at the start of her 2014 Sydney Autumn campaign where she enjoyed considerable success from a handful of starts, most notably winning her first Group 1 in the Vinery Stud Stakes (2000m) at Rosehill.
Lucia Valentina has added to that tally this year, securing her position as favourite here with success in the Turnbull Stakes (2000m) where she met six who reoppose in the Caulfield Cup. Brilliantly handled by Kerrin McEvoy, she shrugged off pre-race concerns over lameness to record an emphatic victory. She's upped her Timeform rating to 119p as a result.
Looking for the main dangers, the Timeform weight-adjusted ratings reveals a cramped group behind Lucia Valentina with local hopes Lidari, Brambles, Metropolitan winner Junoob and Hawkspur with a query on lone Japanese runner Admire Rakti.
Caulfield-based trainer Peter Moody has gained a late starts with his former French galloper Lidari and 2012 Queensland Derby winner Brambles. While there is little between the pair on weight adjusted -Timeform ratings, there is a slight margin in favour of Brambles over Lidari.
Returning to Group 1 company in the Turnbull Stakes, Brambles travelled behind the speed before running on strongly for third behind Lucia Valentina and reaching a new career peak Timeform rating of 118. That run will have topped him off perfectly for this afternoon's assignment where he enjoys a significant weight advantage, including over stablemate Lidari who finished one place ahead of him in the Turnbull Stakes.
Leading Sydney trainer Chris Waller will be well represented by four runners: Junoob, Moriarty, Hawkspur and Who Shot Thebarman. Of them, Hawkspur looks the likeliest.
The Queensland Derby winner in 2013, Hawkspur has been a model of consistency this year, including when he finished behind Lucia Valentina in the Turnbull Stakes (left with a lot to do). If Hawkspur runs to his Timeform rating of last year when finishing seventh behind Fawkner then he will be amongst the main winning hopes today.
Talented mare Rising Romance, the winner of the G1 ATC Oaks (2400m) defeating Lucia Valentina, has been working up to her best form in three runs back this campaign. A close third in the Craven Plate over 2000m at Randwick last time brought her back to within 2 lb of her ATC Oaks-winning Timeform rating, so she's clearly back in the mood now.
Green Moon, winner of the 2011 Newcastle Cup and 2012 Melbourne Cup as well as being runner-up in 2011 Caulfield Cup, could easily surprise. He raced well first up in the Makybe Diva Stakes but then performed too bad to be true in the Turnbull Stakes finishing near the rear of the field. Despite his advancing years, Green Moon is still competitive at this level as evidenced by his narrow second behind Fiorente in the Group 1 Australian Cup in March. He's definitely one for the multiples.
Following the pre-race scratchings of several horses high up in betting markets, Lucia Valentina continues to firm in betting. Whether she represents value now is questionable. However everyone in Newcastle will not mind that too much so long as she can win for Lees and his stable.
Off Time: 07:40 BST
Back Lucia Valentina @ $5.00
Timeform Weight-Adjusted Ratings
1. Lucia Valentina 132
2. Brambles 131
3. Lidari 131
4. Hawkspur 128
5. Junoob 128
6. Rising Romance 128
7. Green Moon 128